While it is often assumed that Judeo-Christian thought justifies the exploitation of animals (since the Bible states that God gave human beings dominion over the natural world), many animal theologians and Christian ethicists have dedicated their career to illustrating that Christianity demands that moral agents develop an ethic for nonhuman animals. Animal theologians, such as Andrew Linzey, illustrate that there is no biblical justification for exploiting and harming animals in the ways that we currently do on factory farms, zoos, circuses, and so forth. Many theologians and Christian ethicists spend considerable time exploring what it means to have “dominion,” concluding that it should be interpreted in terms of “stewardship” instead of “despotism.” Thus, they conclude that, instead of using animals like commodities, living in accordance with Christian values and virtues actually demands that we provide for, and take care of, nonhuman animals since they are entrusted in our care by God.
Andrew Linzey: is a member of the Faculty of Theology in the University of Oxford who held the world’s first academic post in Theology and Animal Welfare. He attempts to demonstrate that Christianity necessitates a respect for nonhuman animals. Thus, we can criticize animal exploitation through Christian principles and teaching, affording attention to how scripture can guide our interactions with nonhuman animals. Books include: Animal Rights: A Christian Perspective, Christianity and the Rights of Animals , Animal Theology , Why Animal Suffering Matters: Philosophy, Theology, and Practical Ethics . His introductory article on the “Bible and Killing for Food’ is available here.
Charles Camosy teaches Christian ethics at Fordham University and is the founder and co-director of the Catholics Conversation Project. Much of his work focuses on whether Christians should eat meat, own pets, benefit from biomedical research on animals, support factory farming, and/or hunt. He takes up these issues in his book For Love of Animals: Christian Ethics, Consistent Action, where he argues that Christian principles of “nonviolence, concern for the vulnerable, respect for life, stewardship of God’s creation, and rejection of consumerism—require us to treat animals morally.” He also engages the philosophy of Peter Singer in his book Peter Singer and Christian Ethics: Beyond Polarization, where he attempts to find solidarity with Singer’s ethics and Christian Ethics. You can watch videos of Camosy explaining his Christian perspective on eating animals here.
Matthew Scully is an author and former speechwriter for former President George W. Bush. He is the author of Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy, where he derives an animal ethic from conservative, Christian principles. He argues that the belief that humans are permitted to exploit animals (for instance, through whaling, eating animals and animal product from factory farms, hunting wild animals, harvesting marine resources) just because “God gave us Dominion” is seriously mistaken. Rather, he argues that Christian principles, such as the principle of charity, demand that human beings act more benevolently, kindly, and mercifully toward nonhuman animals because they are vulnerable and helpless. Rather than claim that nonhuman animals are our moral equals, Scully admits that they might not be, yet the fact that they are not our equals, and are therefore more vulnerable than humans, gives us even more of a reason to provide for them and treat them with mercy and compassion.